Solar During a Power Outage: How It Works

Solar during a Power Outage

When you install a solar energy system, you might expect that the lights will stay on when the power goes out because you’re generating your own power. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.  

With grid tied solar systems, any excess power you create will be stored in the utility grid. The grid is sort of like a big battery, you send power to it when you have excess and take energy from it when you need more. Because of this connection, when grid power goes out – so does yours. This keeps electricity from leaking onto the grid lines and putting folks working to correct the issue in harm’s way.  

To get power during a grid blackout, you will need a grid tied solar system with battery backup. When the grid is up and working, the system functions like a normal grid tied solar system. Some of the electricity your solar system produces will top off your batteries. In the case of grid failure, the batteries kick in to keep the lights on.  

A solar system with battery backup costs more than your traditional grid tied solar system but having power during a blackout can be invaluable to some. Any home that already has solar panels, is battery backup ready.  

You are a good candidate for a backup battery system if you: 

  • Want to know that you will have seamless energy when the grid is down  
  • Experience frequent power outages 
  • Experience extreme weather conditions 
  • Have critical appliances at your home 

Power Outages Becoming Increasingly Common

Unfortunately, we’re seeing power outages becoming more common place as more and more people are in the path of severe weather patterns. In some places power companies are preemptively shutting down the grid when they anticipate a blackout.  

The good news is that there are solutions to grid failures through battery and solar battery storage.  

Tesla Powerwall: Home Battery Storage  

Powerwall is a home battery system that turns your home’s solar panels into an all-day resource. Daily it increases your self-consumption of solar. In the event of an outage, it offers reliable home backup power. With Powerwall, more of your home’s electricity use will come from solar, which enhances solar functionality, reduces energy costs and provides peace of mind to homeowners.  

Powerwall allows you to store 14 kWh of energy and use that energy to run your home with solar during the night and back up your home in the event of a power outage. 

The technology withing Powerwall is able to detect a grid outage, disconnect from the grid and bring power back to your home in a fraction of a second. That is over 100x faster than typical standby generators, and fast enough to keep your appliances running without interruption. You will not have to reset your clocks or your alarm. Powerwall can provide backup to your entire home. However, depending on the type of appliances at your home, we may recommend an essential load backup instead of whole home backup. Read more about Tesla here. 

Right Sizing Your Backup System:

Whole Home Backup 

If you’re interested in whole home backup, our Solar Designers can analyze your homes electric use patterns and the recommended number of Powerwall’s needed to keep all loads running. In some cases, an upgrade to your electrical panel may be needed and we will advise you if this is the case. You can add more Powerwall’s to keep your house operational longer during an outage. 

Essential Load Backup  

If your electrical situation doesn’t require whole home backup, we can backup select essential loads. Since lights and outlets require less energy, a single Powerwall will typically be enough.  

 

In summary, during a grid blackout, power from your solar system won’t be available for you to use unless you have a backup battery system. If you’re interested to learn more about solar or battery back-up, give us a call today! 1-877-OWN-SOLAR.  

 

 

 

 

Lithium Ion Batteries & New Advancements in Solar Storage

This week we celebrate advancements in the field of lithium-ion battery storage, with The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Akira Yoshino “for the development of lithium-ion batteries.” These batteries are the central technology in contemporary solar storage. While Lithium-Ion batteries are used in devices of all types, they have enabled huge developments in fossil-free energy storage. They have also enabled the development of long range electric cars.

Join Solar Designer, Jack Hadley as he discusses solar batteries, why solar batteries are useful and what makes Tesla Powerwall different.

What type of home needs solar batteries?

While solar batteries add to the cost of your solar project and lessen the ROI, some households find they are worth the investment. You should consider batteries for your solar system if…

  • Your home is remote and isn’t tied into the utility grid;
  • You experience frequent power outages;
  • You have critical appliances; or
  • You experience extreme weather conditions

Learn more or to sign up to chat with a solar & Powerwall expert…

 

Third Sun Solar Homes & Brewery on the National Solar Tour

On October 5 & 6, 2019, hundreds of home and business owners who have gone solar across the United States hosted solar open houses on the National Solar Tour, to share the power of solar energy with their communities. Homeowners welcome members of the community into their homes to see their solar system up close and hear testimonial experience and reasoning for going solar.

For a complete list of participating homes across the states and across Ohio, visit the National Solar Tour Map page here. 

Who is participating?

  • The 2019 National Solar Tour brought together solar energy supporters from all across the country and all walks of life.
  • There were more than 800 sites and 70 local solar tours participating across 46 states.

What did attendees learn?

  • Solar open houses are a chance to visit homes and businesses that use solar energy, green building design, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and other innovative or proven technologies.
  • Tour attendees will be able to see local renewable energy in action. They can ask home and business owners about their systems.
  • The Tour is an opportunity for solar supporters to network with each other for a fun and educational experience.
  • Solar tour visitors will learn about:
    • Reducing electricity costs;
    • Supporting energy independence;
    • Protecting against power outages; and
    • Reducing carbon emissions.

Why Attend?

  • Connect with others who are interested in solar;
  • See a solar system in action;
  • Find answers to your questions;
  • Share stories of your solar journey; and
  • Celebrate the power of solar energy!

Sunbury, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1468/

This 28 panel ground mounted array is a 7.5 kW solar system. It offsets the homes energy consumption by 68% and will save the homeowners $62,543 over the lifetime of the system.

Powell, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1314/

Solar homeowner & host, Michael Schaal is a renewable energy advocate and independent solar consultant.  While relatively new to commercial solar, Michael has been passionate about renewable energy for many years.  His initial interest led him to pursue solar energy for his own home after successfully overturning local homeowner association restrictions on solar.  In addition to promoting solar in his neighborhood (3 homes and counting!), Michael is also active regionally with Solar United Neighbors and has presented at their annual conference on overcoming HOA obstacles. 

Check out his 7.5 kW black on black solar array, learn about Home Owners Associations & get all of your solar questions answered.

Athens, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/1089/

Did you know that Ohio favorite Jackie O’s is a solar powered brewery?

“Our eventual goal is 100 percent sustainability,”  said Founder Art Osterike,  “A good economy and healthy planet aren’t mutually exclusive and we look forward to working with Third Sun Solar to show that to beer lovers and decision makers across Ohio, the Midwest and the entire country.”

Akron, Ohio

Event information: https://www.nationalsolartour.org/open-houses/535/

43 black on black solar panels make up this 13.5 kW array. The array is offsetting 92% of the home’s energy usage over the course of the year. Over the lifetime of the system, we estimate that these Akron homeowners will save $116,594 in energy costs. Check out the energy & sustainability upgrades the homeowners have made to their home in addition to solar!

 

Buying A Solar Home Checklist

Congratulations!

Maybe you bought or are thinking about buying a home with a solar energy system. We’re not surprised. With the growing popularity of solar, you may encounter solar on some of the houses you see.  

So, what do you need to know when considering buying a house with solar? If the previous homeowner owns the solar array, they will be transferring all the benefits to you. These benefits come in the form of reduced electric bills and clean, renewable power. You may pay a little more for the home itself due to the increased home value that comes with solar. But, think about it this way: would you rather pay $200,000 for a home with electric bills that cost $300 per month or $225,000 for a home with electric bills $50 or less.  

New-To-You Solar Homeowner Checklist  

 

1. Get Educated About Solar 

Because you didn’t purchase the solar yourself, you didn’t go through the solar buying process that would have educated you on the many facets of solar homeownership. Here are a few resources to get started: 

 

 2. Learn About Your New Solar Array 

How old is the solar system on your new home? What type of solar panels make up the solar array? How much is it worth? We recommend requesting the following documents from the company that installed the solar energy system to find answers to these important questions.  

  • The original quote or contract for your solar energy system including the scope of work, equipment, sale price and warranty information.  
  • The built drawings of your solar energy system.   
  • Information about the specific equipment that makes up your solar system.  
  • With the help of the previous homeowner or your solar installer, learn how to log in to your online monitoring platform to track the performance of your solar array. 

 

 3.  Set up Solar Renewable Energy Credits in Your Name  

Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or SRECs (pronounced “ESS-rek”), are annual credits for the clean electricity produced by your solar PV system. They represent “the renewable energy attributes” associated with one megawatt-hour of electricity produced by your system each year (one megawatt-hour is equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar). 

A general rule of thumb in Ohio is 1kW of solar capacity will produce approximately 1 SREC per year.  Therefore, a 5kW solar PV system will produce about 5 SRECs per year and a 10kW system will produce about 10 SRECs per year. 

When you buy a home with a solar system, the SREC certification, registration and agreements are transferable to the new owner. To do this, the SREC broker who currently holds the account will need the contact information of the new property owners and associated closing documents showing the transfer of ownership.  

There are different buyers, brokers and aggregators to choose from to sell your SRECs.  Third Sun Solar suggests Knollwood Energy, or Sol Systems to our customers. 

 

4. Add your solar system to you homeowners insurance 

Using the information you’ve collected, add your solar energy system to your homeowner’s insurance. This is a good way to protect the system in the case of damage. 

 

5. Switch your interconnection agreement 

Give your solar installer a call and ask them to switch the name on your interconnection agreement with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (or your states Public Utility Commission). 

  

Interested in more?  We are always willing to help you with any questions you might have about your new solar array. Give our office a call and we’ll set up a time for you to talk to knowledgeable people. 1-877-GO-SOLAR

 

 

 

Selling A Solar Home  

Selling a Home with a Solar Energy System

In addition to the many benefits that solar adds to a home, increased property value can be found among them. Let’s face it – the home you’re in now might not be the home that you live in for the next 25 or more years. With solar system lasting at least 25 years (and some system functioning even after 40 years) you may wonder: what happens if I move? You may relocate for work or choose to downsize. Should you still consider solar if you aren’t sure you’ll be in your home forever? YES! Do not let a future move keep you from living your renewable energy dreams now.

As solar becomes more mainstream, real estate agents, appraisers and homeowners are looking to know more about what a solar energy system does to the value of a home. We’re glad others are asking this question too, which has resulted in several studies published on the topic.

The findings:  

  • A recent report by Zillow shows that on a national average, homes with solar sold for 4.1% more than homes without solar. So by investing in solar, you’re both saving money now AND increasing the resale value of your home.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory & U.S Energy department (Appraising Into The Sun) found “strong, appraisal-based evidence of PV premiums in each of seven market areas in six states.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory (Exploring California PV Home Premiums) concludes that “each 1-kW increase in size equates to a $5,911 higher Premium”

Much of the research to date has been done on the west coast, a leader in the solar energy movement. As the burgeoning solar movement continues, we will see more data to analyze in the Midwest. At Third Sun Solar we have known customers to purchase and sell homes with our solar systems installed, and all parties have been happy with the results.

Return on Investment

Solar provides more to a home purchase than any other home improvement:

  1. The ROI is much higher for the purchasing homeowner, who benefits from reduced electric bills
  2. There is environmental ROI seen in the reduction of carbon emissions
  3. The ROI on long lasting solar equipment increases as traditional electric costs rise
  4. Existing solar installations can be grandfathered into older and more lucrative Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) plans that are no longer available. In some cases, picking a home with solar can occasionally get your buyers even more SREC savings than the current pricing.  

Solar Stands Out 

Solar can help you stand out in a crowded market. A solar energy array is an important marketing piece. You will attract the attention of home buyers interested in solar and renewable energy. Make it pop! With a national increase of attention on renewable energy – solar is quite popular. Highlight the benefits. And be prepared to answer any questions potential buyers might ask. Who installed the solar system? What is the size of the solar system? What is the warranty period?  

Take a look at the types of things a solar home-buyer is thinking about when looking at your solar home. 

Even if you have a portion of a solar loan to pay off, the premium price you get on your home due to the solar array could offset that cost & potentially create a profit 

 

Third Sun Solar is interested in working with you to generate a free solar estimate for your home. We’re Ohio’s oldest & most trusted installer. We’re proud of the work we do.  

If you’re interested in getting a free solar estimate for your home give us a call during office hours at 740-249-4533 or fill out this form to be put in touch with a knowledgeable Solar Consultant.  

Bi-Directional Metering in Ohio

All residential solar systems that maintain a connection with their utility company require a bi-directional meter. A bi-directional meter measures the flow of electricity in two directions. It measures how much energy you’ve consumed and how much solar energy you’ve fed back into the grid. Read more about net metering here. 

When do I turn my solar system on?

Before you begin the operation of your solar system, wait until your utility installs your bi-directional meter . This is to avoid any generation fees.

Why do I have to wait for the bi-directional meter to be installed?

Some standard meters may include a feature that prevent it from turning backwards and registering reverse power flow. In this case, even though your facility should reduce the amount of electricity the electricity your facility generates in relation to your current consumption would not be measured or subtracted from your overall electrical energy use.

Unfortunately, turning your solar energy system on before the bidirectional meter is installed can lead to extremely large utility bills. In the case that your solar system is on and the bidirectional meter is not yet installed, you could be charged for the energy your solar system produces. This is because your current meter understands all the energy you’ve created as energy used.

Third Sun Solar’s Role

Following installation and inspection of your system, Third Sun Solar will submit a request for bi-directional meter exchange.

Typically, the utility company will install the bidirectional meter anywhere from a week to a month post notification. Unfortunately, your solar company does not have control over when the utility will replace your meter. Additionally, your solar installer and you, the homeowner, are not always notified by the utility that the meter has been swapped! This can leave you waiting and checking your meter regularly, in anticipating of turning on your new solar array!

At Third Sun, we will be persistent in trying to make this happen! If it takes an unusually long time (over a month) we will file a case with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (or your state’s Public Utilities Commission) to have them intervene and help accelerate the process.

The Solar Homeowners Role

Be vigilant! Check on your meter! Because the utility company might not notify you or your installer about the meter swap, it’s possible that they install it while you aren’t looking. For the first month, go ahead and check on your meter every once in awhile to see if it has been switched out.  This is what you’re looking for:

Fine Print Information about Net-Metering and Meter Exchanges

Be aware, as a net-metering customer, you are required to report yearly excess generation credits that total $600 or more to the IRS as miscellaneous income and your utility is required to report this information to you and to the IRS.

Please note that you are responsible for operating the facility safely, in accordance with the terms of the Application/Agreement and the manufacturer’s instructions. You also are to perform regular maintenance and inspections in accordance with accepted practices and the manufacturer’s instructions.

Useful Links:

 

Net Metering for Solar in Ohio  

In sunny peak months in Ohio, solar systems often produce more energy than a home can consume. Have you ever wondered what happens to this excess electricity? Or how you, the homeowner, benefit from the extra energy your solar energy system produces? Net Metering is the process that accounts for this difference in production & use. 

Net metering allows you to store energy you produce in the electric grid, in the form of credits. When you produce more energy than you need, excess electricity travels back into the power grid. Energy sent back into the grid goes to power your neighbors’ homes. The State of Ohio requires that the utility company credit you for that energy you produced and send along. These credits appear on your monthly electric bill to help you keep track.  

During sunny summer months, when your solar system is producing more than the energy you are using, you bank up credits. During the winter months, your home uses more energy than your solar system produces, and you use up the credits you’ve earned.  

You will be charged for the energy you take use from the traditional electric grid (when your solar panels aren’t producing). You can pay for that extra energy using the credits you accrue during times your solar system is producing more energy than you are using.  

Why is net metering important?

Net metering increases the economic benefit of solar power by crediting you for the power your solar energy system produces.  The amount of energy you produce and use will vary over the course of the year. Net metering helps you account for this difference by crediting you for the excess electricity your panels produce so you can use it later. 

Your utility benefits from net metering because electricity is generated so close to where it is consumed. This diminishes the amount of electricity lost when power is transmitted across miles of wires. Additionally, it helps reduce strain on the grid during peak demand times: like on hot, sunny days.

Will I receive payment for the excess energy I produce?  

You’ll get credits to be used on an annual basis to offset the cost of electricity that you take from the grid during times when your solar system is not producing energy. These credits roll over from month to month. You will not, however, receive a check from your utility for the excess energy you put back into the grid. 

At what rate do utility companies credit me for my usage?

Electric companies credit you at a net excess generation rate. The State of Ohio’s net metering policy does not require utilities to credit energy you produce at the full retail rate.  

This rate depends on your electric company. Your experienced Solar Consultant can help you understand what your utility’s net excess generation rate is.

Can my energy bill be $0?

In many cases, yes!   

Some utility companies have a single fixed cost, or customer charge, that all customers are required to pay each month. However, in many cases you can use credits to pay down the fixed monthly costs.  We often see $0 electric bills sent to us by our customers!  

How much energy from my electric company will I purchase annually, when I have a solar system?

We don’t design all solar systems to meet 100% of a homes electric usage over the course of the year. Why? This depends on many factors, but primarily the amount of space a home has for solar panels. Your solar consultant will work with you to design a solar system that makes sense for your homes annual electricity usage.  

 

Third Sun Solar has worked with hundreds of homeowners across the state of Ohio and beyond. We have close working relationships with all of Ohio’s many rural cooperatives and public utilities.

If you have any questions about solar or net metering, please reach out.

 

 

 

Solar Batteries Becoming Increasingly Common   

Here at Third Sun Solar we are finding that our residential customers are increasingly interested in purchasing battery storage with their solar energy system. Battery systems are valuable for many reasons. They provide peace of mind to individuals who experience frequent power outages. Especially in rural areas in Ohio, grid outages are common. Solar batteries help families regain control over their home lives by providing a source of power that doesn’t rely on the energy company.   

Is Your Grid Reliable?   

Some people don’t know that The National Electric Code mandates grid tied solar systems shut off during a power outage. Why? During a power outage, the power utility sends out repair crews to find and fix the points of failure. Power leaking onto the grid lines endangers linemen and women fixing the service issue. Therefore, utility rules mandate that in the event of a power outage, solar arrays must automatically shut down. Solar systems have detectors that sense whether power is coming across the grid. Solar systems automatically shut down when the grid fails. This is a done to protect utility workers.  

Because batteries store excess solar energy, they still function during a power outage.  

What are battery backup systems?   

Battery backup systems are a lot like they sound.  Batteries are used as an emergency power source during power outages.  Solar energy created from you array charges the batteries, then the batteries power your home.  These systems are generally not designed to backup whole house loads, but rather critical loads such as lighting, sump pumps, furnace blowers, refrigeration, etc.  Third Sun Solar installs battery backup solutions to for homeowners who request backup batteries in addition to a solar PV system.  

By design, solar battery systems provide backup power during grid failure. Solar batteries do not typically support nighttime loads.  

Maintenance   

Batteries are much like a car, if you park in the garage and never pay attention to it, it will not work when you need it.  Depending on the type of battery technology you choose, there may be some battery maintenance such as topping off fluid levels and equalizing the batteries (lead-acid batteries).  Other types of batteries, like lithium-ion batteries, require much less maintenance. Batteries need to cycle, this means that the power levels need to reach a low point to get charged to full again. Additionally, battery charge levels need observation both during use and while not in use. 

They level of attention your solar batteries will need depends on your choice of technology. Compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries are virtually trouble free, however the inverters and communications systems will need modified as time goes on and new features become available 

A solar battery customer will have a higher level of engagement with their batteries than your typical solar homeowner. Maybe you have a technical mindset & are interested in being involved with the solar battery system.  If you’re interested in a hands off system, a generator may be a better choice to achieve your backup power goal. 

Why now?   

We are in a new era of solar energy storage. Lithium ion batteries are a wonderful technology and new innovations like the Tesla Powerwall are making their way into the market. Don’t forget- the 30% federal tax credit drops after 2019– and solar battery purchases count in this tax credit. 

For customers who experience frequent grid outages and want to regain control of their energy, batteries are a great solution. Comfort comes from knowing that you’ll have the power you need even when the grid is down. With a battery system, energy is reliably ready for you at any moment.   

Click here to get your FREE solar proposal. 

 

Tips & Tricks for Solar Champions  

Here at Third Sun we are sincerely grateful for our customers. We’re grateful for your choice to go solar and your enthusiasm to spread the word with your friends and family. Even if you aren’t a customer, you can still be a Solar Champion. Read on to learn how.

How to talk to friends and family about installing solar

You know what convinced you to go solar. And you know you friends and family best. You are uniquely positioned to tell them why they should choose solar power. We recognize it can be a tricky conversation, but an important one to have, so we’ve included some tips & tricks below to help you!  

Become a Solar Champion  

Being a Solar Champion is a great way to spread the word about the environmental and financial benefits of choosing solar energy to power your home. What else? You will earn $500 with each referral that purchases solar through Third Sun. Your friends and family save money too when they choose Third Sun Solar. With your referral they will receive $250 off the price of their solar energy system. If you think a friend or family member is ready to talk to us about solar, enter them into the referral page of our website!  

Let your friend or family member know that we’ll be reaching out 

If you fill out the Solar Champion Referral form, let your referral know that we will be contacting them soon and to be expecting a call. Don’t forget to follow up with them, too. What did they decide to do? What additional information can you provide, or questions can you answer for them? 

A few ways you can ask if you can refer a friend or family member to Third Sun Solar:  

“You’ve expressed interest in my solar energy system in the past, and I’m reaching out to see if I could put you in contact with my installer, Third Sun Solar. They will provide a free quote specific to your home with no obligation to purchase! 

“I know we’ve talked in the past about you installing solar on your roof. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend my solar installer, Third Sun Solar. Would you like to put you in contact with them?  Through their referral program, you will receive $250 off the cost of your system if you choose to make the purchase!”  

“The 30% federal tax credit for solar is ending this year. This program will save you thousands on the upfront cost of your solar system, increasing your net gain in the long-run. If you’re interested in solar, I’ve got to say, 2019 is the year. Can I recommend you to my installer, Third Sun Solar? “ 

Host a solar open house 

Get some of your neighbors together for a solar open house. We’ll come out to talk about the system and answer any questions they may have about solar.  

Share your love of the sun on social media!  

An effective way to spread the word about solar: social media! Share photos for your home and your panels and to let your followers know about your choice to power your home with green energy.  

Tag Third Sun Solar, or use the hashtag: #PowerForLife 

Linking photos back to Third Sun will help potential customers see projects that we’ve done and help you tell your friends and family about your exciting investment! Feel free to tag your Solar Consultant in posts when it makes sense so they can follow up with interested friends and family! 

Call our office today to learn more about the Solar Champion Referral program. 877-OWN-SOLAR. We look forward to working with your friends and family!  

Solar on Your Roof: Critter Guards! 

Neighborhood animals are especially prone to nesting underneath roof-mounted solar panels. Why? Because rooftop solar systems provide protection from the sun, security from predators and a good space to create a nest for many of these animals. If you aren’t proactive, animals can quickly become a problem for your solar array.  

What kind of damage can critters do?  

Well, a lot. Birds and squirrels are the most common culprits of damage on rooftop solar arrays. Squirrels nest under panels, chew through wires and sometimes burrow through your roof. Birds leave behind scat and nets, which build up lots of debris. This damage and build up can lead to power loss and maintenance costs for your roof and solar array.  

A Solution to the Problem  

Your Solar Consultant will recommend Critter guards for your home solar array. You could have critter guard screens installed at the time of your solar instillation, or at a later time. It will be most cost effective to install critter guards at the time of your solar instillation.  

Third Sun Solar doesn’t recommend installing critter guards by yourself. We wouldn’t want you to get hurt, or to accidentally cause your solar system to malfunction by pulling wire.  

Third Sun Solar recommends that you ask your Solar Consultant to include critter guards when you make your solar purchase. This relatively low-cost addition can help prevent big maintenance problems and damage to your panels or roof in the long run. Ask you Solar Consultant for specific pricing.